Yarmouth councilors move budgets forward

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YARMOUTH — Opinions and observations about school and municipal spending will be sought when councilors host a 7 p.m. public hearing May 3 on fiscal 2013 budgets.

The hearing will provide the last opportunity for residents to weigh in on $32.06 million in spending before the June 5 Town Meeting.

Councilors unanimously approved sending the school and municipal budgets to the public hearing after about 45 minutes of public comment at their April 19 meeting.

The combined budgets require $26.2 million in property tax revenues. Property owners will see a rate increase of 87 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, to $21.25, if the school, municipal and share of Cumberland County obligations are approved.

Budget templates presented by Town Manager Nat Tupper and School Superintendent Judy Paolucci have remained essentially unchanged since a council workshop earlier this month and the School Committee vote last month.

Tupper said the combined budgets represent a 2.03 percent increase in spending. The municipal increase is primarily the result of shifting 2.5 positions from the school to municipal side in the Public Works Department, and the need to allocate $195,000 for the town share of work on Route 88.

The $450,000 project to repair the road is half funded by the Maine Department of Transportation, and Tupper said the remainder of the town’s share of $228,000 will come from diverted public works funding for other projects.

School spending is slated to increase 1.85 percent and require more than $18 million in property tax revenue for the total $20.16 million budget.

Paolucci and School Committee Chairman David Ray made informal presentations on the budget as part of last week’s public hearing, noting about 70 percent of the school budget funds salaries and benefits. The fiscal 2013 school budget also introduces full-day kindergarten classes.

A draft of the warrant for the annual Town Meeting was also released, with 29 school and municipal spending articles listed for discussion and vote at 7 p.m., June 5, at Harrison Middle School. Included in the warrant are the 11 “cost centers” for school operations and a separate item to fund full-day kindergarten.

Nomination papers are due April 30 from candidates for a Yarmouth Water District trustee seat with a three-year term; three School Committee seats with three-year terms; two council seats with three-year terms, and a council seat with a one-year term.

Local elections, including the referendum on the school budget, will be held June 12 at the Robert W. Boyd AMVETS Post No. 2 at 148 North Road.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow David on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements

Councilors press need for public works depot

YARMOUTH — A scaled-back plan for improvements at the public works and school bus depot does not mean more improvements won’t be needed later, councilors were warned by Public Works Director Erick Street.

“One or two bays do not solve the issues we are facing,” Street said April 19 before councilors approved funding for revised plans for improving the North Street facility.

Councilors unanimously approved allocating $42,000 in surplus funds to pay for plans to add on to the facility and an option to buy an adjacent North Street property. Councilors Erving Bickford and Tim Sanders did not attend the meeting.

Town Manager Nat Tupper said the preliminary plan is to add to the current structure to address high-priority needs like a wash bay. The town will spend $30,000 to work with Portland-based TFH Architects to study what can be done for around $1.5 million or less.

Councilors also approved spending $12,000 for an option to buy 1.5 acres owned by Judy Knaub. The home and land sit next to the entrance to the public works depot. Tupper said the property could be purchased for $375,000, but a question about a pond at the rear of the property must be resolved before the option is acquired.

Tupper said the pond has been classified a “non-significant” vernal pool, meaning it is not subject to Maine laws, but is regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“I won’t exercise my authority to acquire an option until I have a better handle on the vernal pool issue, Tupper said.

Revised plans and buying the Knaub property might be on a the Nov. 6 general election ballot, but not before more council discussion and more formal plans and a cost estimate are presented.

While voting to move ahead with revisions, Councilor Carlton Winslow continued to support a wholesale rebuilding of the facilities.

“This is something the town has needed to do for years,”  he said. “It is a crying shame we expect these people to give their time and energy and not give them the tools they need.”

— David Harry

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.